Combine Preview: CB, S

By Jared Stanger

And now, the headlining performer of the 2017 NFL Draft…defensive backs.

Arriving in Indianapolis last on Friday, with field testing on Monday March 6th, this year’s combined class of cornerbacks and safeties is soo loaded that, whether it was coincidence or not, it deserves the title of headliner. This is pure candy.

Cornerbacks

I don’t have concrete facts to back it up, but on eye test, this looks like the biggest class of CB’s I can remember. Not by volume…by height. I think I counted 22 unique CB in the combine that are preemptively listed over 6’0″, including six over 6’2″.

Although, currently, I only count a few that have been recorded with 32″ arms from the all-star game weigh-ins (Rasul Douglas, Marquez White, Treston Decoud, Brian Allen). A lot of the big names weren’t at the all-star games, though (Lattimore, Tabor, Humphrey, Jones, Tankersley, King, Conley, Wilson, Witherspoon, etc). Additionally, some that were at the all-star games may get Combine arm length bumps.

In terms of testing; there are so many guys that could really pop. It’s tough to predict a top 5 SPARQ group. Marlon Humphrey is a track guy that has fantastic make-up speed on tape. Adoree Jackson should run fast, but his lack of weight might bring down his SPARQ. I’m reading reports of lesser-known Shaquill Griffin running really good times, but I’ve only seen one game of him (from 2015). Fabian Moreau is a pretty athletic guy.

But I’ve got my money on my hometown dude: Kevin King. Jumps for days, exceptional agility, and I think people are comatose to what his true 40 speed is. I think Kev makes the most money at the combine for his position.

I don’t get the sense that the Florida CB’s or guys like Douglas and Tankersley are blazers. But a fast 40 isn’t always prerequisite for a Seattle CB. Richard Sherman ran a 4.60 at the combine, and later lowered it to a 4.53 at his pro day. Tye Smith was a 4.60 and then a 4.56. Byron Maxwell was a 4.52. Tharold Simon was a 4.51 and then a 4.47. If you’re looking for benchmarks; try to note the guys under 4.55 with a 10’04” broad jump…cross-reference with 32″ arms…and triple-check back to the game tape.

Keep those numbers in mind especially when all of the Pac12 corners test. Decoud, Allen, Witherspoon, Moreau, and King. Also because, though I think Seattle might go CB earlier than ever this year, they might also stick to historical pattern of 4th round back. King may not last that long, but the other four might. Those names could also qualify for the back end of a double-dip (two scoops of CB in one draft).

Safety

I don’t have a great sense for the athleticism tiers in this safety class. I know Jamal Adams and Budda Baker are both up there. I think Marcus Williams might run the fastest 40 of the group. Malik Hooker has to be up there, too. And I like John Johnson’s overall athleticism as a sleeper.

But there’s a whole gaggle more that I have no real sense for. Justin Evans, Josh Jones, Shalom Luani, Montae Nicholson, Tedric Thompson, Xavier Woods. I don’t think I’ve seen any one flash more than another…I don’t think any have ever embarassed themselves looking slow/unathletic. This is probably the best example of a position group where guys will legitimately be “breaking ties” with their athleticism. This will definitely be the combine testing that sends me back to the tape on the most individual players.

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Combine Preview: DL, LB

By Jared Stanger

Group 7, 8, and 9 of the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine arrive in Indianapolis on Thursday and will have their primary field testing on Sunday. This consists of two groups of DL, and one of LB’s.

This will be the much-hyped 2017 Edge group. A group that draft media really has zero consensus on after Myles Garrett. We’ve got athletes with no production, we’ve got producers without outstanding traits, we’ve got big-bodied DE/DT tweeners, we’ve got undersized DE/LB tweeners, and we’ve got guys that are just straight up B- across the board. It’s either a mess or a pass-rushing smorgasbord.

Let’s start with the big boys. Jonathan Allen is somewhere top 3 picks, depending on if someone wants a QB. Solomon Thomas should be somewhere top 10. After starting the year very near the top of many big boards; Malik McDowell has been in a bit of a free fall…no production, missed three games, talk of character redflags. And Tanoh Kpassagnon is the biggest of the bunch, with good production at a small school and rumored excellent athleticism, but lacking great edge traits. Arguably all four of these could/should play predominantly interior DL at the next level.

The smallest of the small-bodied guys is Pittsburgh’s Ejuan Price. We’re talking sub 6’0″. And that size deficiency was evident pretty much anytime an opponent double-teamed Price with as much as a RB/TE chip. But he was 5th in the country in sacks. Haason Reddick is almost assuredly a stand-up LB in the NFL, but he’ll go to Indy in the DE group. Same story for Pita Taumoepenu. This group should test very well, however.

Demarcus Walker and Jordan Willis were guys with a ton of production that many don’t expect to test well. Dawuane Smoot had a dip in production under Lovie Smith’s coaching, but should test above average.

The best athletes from the 7th and 8th DL groups should be: Myles Garrett, Solomon Thomas, Haason Reddick, Takk McKinley, and Charles Harris. I’ve got Jordan Willis as the sleeper to sneak into the top 5 Edge in SPARQ.

Then, there are also guys that will test as LB’s on Sunday, but could play some hand in the dirt DE as pro’s. This is the Ryan Anderson, Tyus Bowser, Jojo Mathis collection. Of those three, Mathis feels the most mis-placed off the ball, as his 260 lbs and pass-rushing traits deserve to be in the DL group. Bowser is correctly placed, but should get 3rd down passrush reps wherever he gets picked.

The rest of the traditional LB’s would feature great testing from Jarrad Davis and Reuben Foster if they were healthy enough to compete. Bowser is a very nice athlete and should perform well across the board. And Zach Cunningham should have a great day.

Overall, it’s not a great group of standup LB’s this year, and certainly not very deep.

Speaking of the groups more challenged of talent…this is a bad year at DT. It makes some sense that it is bad after the quality we saw in 2016, but still. It’s especially rough for interior passrushers.

I think the DT passrush group (outside of the aforementioned DE with DT versatility) begins and ends with five names: Davon Godchaux, Jaleel Johnson, Vincent Taylor, Treyvon Hester, and Chunky Clements. And one of those is kind of a flyer-only based on flashes of upside.

But there are another handful of names that have shown potential to be solid rotational DT. I like Dalvin Tomlinson as a run-stuffer. Both Notre Dame DT (Isaac Rochell and Jarron Jones) hold some intrigue if allowed time to learn on the bench. Similar line of thinking on Nazair Jones. Carlos Watkins had a very productive year, but watching his tape I always ended up wondering if he was often just in the right spot to clean up the work done by Clemson teammates: Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins.

In terms of elite DT athletes…I don’t have a great sense that any are like Dontari Poe level athletes. I think Jaleel has shown the most raw athleticism of the group. But the sleeper has got to be Elijah Qualls. The former fullback with tumbling skills could do crazy things in agility and jumping tests.

Combine Preview: WR, TE

By Jared Stanger

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Groups 4, 5, and 6 of this year’s NFL Scouting Combine arrive in Indianapolis on March 1st, and will be comprised of the QB’s, WR’s, and TE’s. For purposes of a Seattle Seahawk draft blog, I won’t be talking about the QB’s.

Wide Receiver

After hosting 42 WR in 2016 and 45 in 2015; with 58 invited in 2017, what this class lacks in top end WR1’s, it might be trying to compensate for in volume. I hope the combine organizers have lined up additional throwing QB’s.

With 58 receivers participating, they are a plethora of pretty much every type of wideout imaginable. Tall ones, short ones, fast ones, slow ones, slot ones, outside ones.

Tall ones: Ricky Seals-Jones, Kenny Golladay, Bug Howard, Mike Williams, Corey Davis.

Short ones: Greg Ward, Jesus Wilson, Artavis Scott, Speedy Noil, Gabe Marks.

Fast ones: John Ross, Shelton Gibson, Curtis Samuel, Victor Bolden, Mack Hollins.

Slow ones: well, let’s not throw them under the bus. Even some of the slow ones are intriguing this year.

Slot ones: Cooper Kupp, Zay Jones, Trent Taylor, Ryan Switzer, Fred Ross.

Outside ones: Chad Hansen, Chris Godwin, Juju Smith-Schuster, Taywan Taylor, Josh Reynolds.

Five per category with no repeats, and that’s not even half of this class. I mean, where do you even start to talk about this many WR?

In terms of pure SPARQ; I think Mack Hollins (if healthy) has a chance to put up testing somewhere around a Martavis Bryant or Tyrell Williams. I can’t wait to see UW’s John Ross test…would love to see him win the 40. I could see Cooper Kupp having an overall top-5 WR SPARQ score.

Historically, wide receiver SPARQ hasn’t been a strong predictor of Seattle’s interest in a player. Kenny Lawler ran a 4.63 forty, Chris Harper ran a 4.55, Kevin Norwood ran a 4.48 but didn’t show much in the vert, shuttle, or bench. But they also drafted SPARQ freak Kris Durham for pretty much ONLY that reason.

In a general sense, I’ve long been eyeing the 3rd round as the sweet spot this year, but my current sense is that the group of Kupp, Jones, Carlos Henderson, Taylor are looking strongly 2nd round guys.

I think Kupp will surprise people. I think Taywan is a fairly well-documented SPARQ’d up guy. I don’t have a great sense for where Zay is at purely physically…I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a combine like Jordan Matthews did a couple years ago when people thought Jordan was slow…I also wouldn’t be surprised if Zay is an average runner (I lean toward Zay being faster than expected).

In a Seattle sense, if there are questions about Tyler Lockett’s health, Jermaine Kearse’s rebound from a rough 2016, getting out a year ahead of Paul Richardson’s impending free agency year, or a combination of any-of-the-above; your first time to really consider WR is in the 2nd round with that group. So those are a handful of guys to watch for in the testing.

If Seattle is looking more towards filling a specific role, a couple things to watch for are: 1) special teamers, 2) big targets.

  1. Lockett’s timetable is a mystery, but even if he’s back fully for preseason I have to wonder if they look to lighten his load on special teams in order to allow him to focus more attention on being WR2. Carlos Henderson is the top WR kickoff returner in the combine (UNC running back TJ Logan is ahead of Carlos if including all positions). Isaiah McKenzie, Trent Taylor could be some names to watch as punt returners.
  2. During, and since, the 2016 season; Seattle has acquired some big-bodied WR slash TE types: 6’2″/225lb Jamel Johnson, 6’6″/230lb Tanner McEvoy, 6’5″/225lb Rodney Smith, 6’4″/218lb Marcus Lucas, 6’5″/220lb Chris Briggs. So, during the weigh-in, I will be interested to see names that pop at 6’2″-plus/220lbs-plus. Pre-emptively: Jerome Lane, Noah Brown, Juju, Seals-Jones, Golladay, Howard, Hollins. Slightly below those specs, but perhaps having the intended skillset: Darreus Rogers. Watch his gauntlet closely.

And, then, that big WR list will be blended with some of the small TE. Which leads us to…

Tight End

WHAT A FUN GROUP THIS WILL BE TO WATCH!!

Right off the top; David Njoku and OJ Howard should test insanely well. The big guy from Ashland, Adam Shaheen, has shown some crazy athleticism for 277 lbs on the limited tape I’ve seen of him. Jordan Leggett can move, Cole Hikutini is a great runner, Evan Engram, Gerald Everett, Eric Saubert…they just keep coming. Oh…I’ve seen Darrell Daniels run a 4.4 forty, so put him somewhere top 5 pure TE athlete in Indy.

Then, in terms of known quality blocking TE’s, would love to see some of these guys also test well athletically: George Kittle, Hayden Plinke, Mike Roberts.

If I put together a vertical short-stack at TE; I’d target one of these four in the round indicated:

3rd- Leggett
4th- Hikutini
5th- Roberts
6th- Plinke

With depth like this, it’s tough for me to see enough value to go TE in the first two rounds. Start in the 3rd (after addressing something more needy in the 1st-2nd).

Roberts is easily the best redzone threat in this class. The rest of my list are tied-2nd, or tied-7th in touchdowns by a TE in the country this year.

Redzone, redzone, redzone. All signs point toward improving redzone with another big body target (plus Luke Willson is probably walking).

Wide receivers and tight ends will take their field-testing on Saturday, March 4th.

Combine Preview: OL, RB

By Jared Stanger

One week from today the NFL Combine begins in Indianapolis with the arrivals of the first 3 groups of participants covering the specialists, offensive line, and running backs. In this story I will be taking a look at some of the OL and RB storylines to watch for from this year.

Offensive Line

The first thing to look for chronologically are the arm lengths at the weigh-in. Especially from the OL that were at the Senior Bowl. Recent data suggests that (for whatever reason) the Senior Bowl is the stingiest giving out longer AL’s of the three major events (Shrine, Sr, Combine). Guys like Ethan Pocic, Antonio Garcia, and Forrest Lamp could really use at least 3/8″ bump ups at the Combine. And recent history says that is totally plausible, if not up to a full inch improvement. Don’t ask me why this happens, but it does.

My next interest will be seeing how these MANY small-school OL test out. Erik Austell from Charleston Southern is an underweight LT that probably projects to OG and shows good movement on tape. Same story for Kutztown’s Jordan Morgan:

Clearly, I think, the league knows this isn’t a strong year for OL so they’ve invited a lot of guys that project as day-3 flyers: Jerry Ugokwe from William and Mary, Nate Theaker from Wayne State, Javarius Leamon from South Carolina State, Cameron Lee from Illinois State, Jessamen Dunker from Tennessee State, Julie’n Davenport from Bucknell, Ethan Cooper from IPU, and Corey Levin from Chattanooga. Ten from outside of FBS, plus another eight from non-Power 5. If I counted right, that means 29 OL from within the Power 5, 18 from outside of it.

Can anyone step away from the pack as a potential Right Tackle?

I think the Left Tackle’s are pretty well known/set with Bolles, Ramczyk, Robinson fighting it out for first round order. The Seahawks would be lucky to see even one of those three hang around till #26.

But at RT there are a LOT of questions. I think Sam Tevi tests pretty well, but his tape is damning. I think Taylor Moton’s tape is good, but he’ll test horribly and probably get drafted as a guard. Jermaine Eluemunor is similar to Moton, but likely a degree or two better athlete. Damn…I’m basically out of interesting names. I don’t know that anyone else has enough talent, athleticism, and love of football (or even two of three of those qualities) after Tevi/Moton/Eluemunor.

Like, honestly, if Pocic gets enough of an AL bump up; put him at RT. I’m also lowkey intrigued by the idea of Damien Mama at RT. Otherwise it’s punting on OL until day 3 when you take one of the aforementioned small-school flyers (or someone not at the combine).

In a pure SPARQ intrigue list; I think Bolles will win the combine. I think Dorian will be very good. I think Lamp can surprise. I think Morgan can surprise. Robinson should be top5. I wouldn’t be shocked if Mama finished as top 5 OL in SPARQ, too.

Mama’s athleticism and what I’d guess are 34″ arms check off a couple of RT boxes…it would just be more a question of improving his technique (especially in pass-pro). But if a team is looking for more of a mauler-RT, with a better pass-protector at LT…maybe there’s some added value to be found in Mama.

Then again, Mama at RT might end up essentially being Eluemunor, who is not projecting to go as high.

Running Back

I don’t think there is as much intrigue at RB as there is at OL. Less mystery. If you watch enough RB tape, you can get a sense for their 40 yard dash from a big run. You can get a pretty good sense of their agility drills from their work behind the line of scrimmage.

Plus, RB is a position where you can overlook the pure SPARQ number in lieu of simply identifying guys that hit your benchmarks. And, more specifically, making sure your shortlist of guys you’ve identified/approved from tape hit those benchmarks.

As much as I would guess that James Conner, Wayne Gallman, Elijah McGuire, Brian Hill would hold some interest to Seattle; I’ve sort of painted myself into a corner of preferring one of Kareem Hunt and Aaron Jones. Both can catch very well, so 3rd downs are an option. Both have been bell-cows for 3+ years at their respective schools, and I think could do it at the next level, if needed. Hunt has more heat on him now and would take a stiffer investment, but I think Jones posts a better combine. We’re looking for Aaron to hit a 4.48 forty at 210 lbs. If Hunt can run 4.55 or better he is very interesting in the 3rd.

For the straight SPARQ championship; I could see Joe Williams taking that, but watch out for Hood (he’s Robocop). Dalvin should be up there in the top 5, and Jones may sneak in 5th-7th.

Introducing: Draft Peers Podcast

By Jared Stanger

Welcome to the brand new draft podcast; Draft Peers.

In this inaugural launch episode, Seattle’s own Davis Hsu (@davishsuseattle on Twitter) and I sit down to talk a little bit about amateur scouting methods, and then we discuss the first in what will be a series of 2017 Draft position group breakdowns: Center.

Please check it out, and love to hear your comments on my Twitter as well (@jaredstanger).

February 2017 SeaMock

By Jared Stanger

Welcome to the unofficial start of Draft Season! Time for a little post-season/pre-combine Seahawk 7-round mock draft. Speed-round edition.

I think the right number of picks for Seattle to try to hit this draft is eight. Assuming the addition of two compensatory picks, they only really need one trade-back, but for sake of some spacing issues I’m speculating two trades, 9 picks.

I liked the look of the Panthers’ draft positions, so I ran the math through the Jimmy Johnson trade chart and came up with: Seattle’s #26 + #90 for Carolina’s #40 + #72 + #99 (Seattle technically loses the trade by 6pts. Whatev.). That would put Seattle drafting #40, #58, #72, #99, and #105 all on the second day of the draft.

I like having five picks on day 2, but I don’t really like the drop from the end of the 3rd round until Seattle’s first pick on day three (#185…at the END of the 5th round). I’d like to swap back #72 to the Colts’ slot at #79, and add their 4th round comp pick #143. A VERY even trade per the chart (230 pts to 229.5 pts).

Positioning Seattle at: 40, 58, 79, 99, 105, 143, 185, 211, 247.

#40 – Kevin King, CB, Washington

Realistically, the OL you need won’t be there. I had talked on Twitter recently about targeting Haason Reddick in the 1st as SAM could be a pretty big need, but I’m already starting to see Reddick gone before #26. I think the WR near #40 would fit value-wise, but I’m not sure they fit need-wise. If you’re into splitting hairs, you can get a different corner that you have higher on your board at #26, but with Seattle’s preference for looking for value at CB, a 2nd round Corner is already breaking from tradition on the aggressive side. This feels more plausible to me, I guess.

There are a lot of places that have King available at Seattle’s native 2nd round pick at #58, but I just have a feeling that will change after his combine. So let’s get out ahead of the buzz and lock down a player capable of playing boundary CB, slot CB, AND safety…all positions with health and/or talent question marks heading into 2017 season.

King is terrific in run support, can shut down the red line like all the best Seahawk corners, and will be a fantastic student under Sherm.

#58 – Ethan Pocic, OL, LSU

This is sort of my cynical take on free agency (non) moves response of a pick. I think the BEST move is to be a little aggressive in FA for OL, but I’m cynical that Pete and John will do it. Or maybe it’s the OL themselves that don’t want to come here. With Russell’s ties to Ricky Wagner at Wisconsin, my fingers are crossed that I will be wrong about this.

Pocic represents a lot of things, but the big one is that he’s kind of Justin Britt in a lot of ways (including probably being the best OL you can get in the 2nd round before a steep dropoff). Position-wise; Pocic is Britt in reverse. Britt started at RT, then LG, then OC. Pocic is a college OC, who played LG at the Senior Bowl, but that might be a pro RT (if his reported arm length improves at the combine).

Seattle will often draft a player a year ahead of when the current guy will be hitting free agency (Glow for Sweezy, Vannett for Willson, etc). We THINK Britt will get an extension, but there’s really no precedent for it yet. With all of these things in mind…Pocic.

Pencil him in at RT with Garry getting the shot at LT, while slowing down the development of Fant.

#79 – John Johnson, DB, Boston College

Probably a pretty big surprise. I think Seattle has been a little passive in the secondary, but it needs bold moves to reload the LOB. This is a great year to do it. KK and JJ mark the beginning of a new reLegion.

Johnson is a guy that is most recently a Safety, spent a few games at CB in 2015, and should be a special teams starter from day one. He’ll be a lot like a smaller version of Shead. I think his combine will be nice so I’m, again, trying to get ahead of that buzz with this aggressive positioning.

King represents the player I think we missed on in Justin Simmons last year, while Johnson represents an Eric Rowe or Sean Davis.

#99 – Joe Mathis, DE, Washington

Mathis is a very tough guy to place. He put out some of the best DE tape in the country…for like six games. Then the injury and surgeries…which make his ability to compete at the combine a HUGE question mark. PFF love him, many on draft twitter love him, but he’s still only pulling a #223 overall from draftscout and I don’t think the big, national writers are caught on yet. (I dread when that tweet crosses my TL.)

I’m putting Mathis here as a late-3rd, but I could see him anywhere from 2nd to 6th. With his recent injuries, I’m projecting Joe to have a rookie year path similar to Odhiambo: 53-man redshirt with mostly inactives, and then he’ll step up into most of Cassius’ reps in 2nd year.

#105 – Cole Hikutini, TE, Louisville

If I’m being honest, this spot should probably go to a RB. Probably the best-remaining from a group of something like: Wayne Gallman, Kareem Hunt, D’Onta Foreman. But in my own little world of hypothetical, I will go with a TE.

If the team carries four TE again, this pick can be a receiving TE like Jordan Leggett (with Vannett and a re-upped Brandon Williams to block). If Williams isn’t back, they could go with someone like Mike Roberts. Or they could go with Cole Hikutini, who I think is pretty solid at both.

I’ll feel more comfortable with which direction to point this pick after the combine, but in the meantime, let’s split the difference with Hikutini.

#143 – Jimmie Gilbert, OLB, Colorado

Jimmie is sort of the fulcrum upon which this draft pivots. If he doesn’t get to the combine at at least 230 lbs, and you don’t think he can eventually carry 235-240, you probably need to find a different guy earlier on.

I’m picking him because I believe in his traits, and I’ll trust in a pro nutritionist and strength coach to make me look brilliant. He already does things at 223 that don’t really make sense.

#185 – Aaron Jones, RB, UTEP

With a trio of RB’s from the last two draft classes under club control for another 2-3 years, RB isn’t a terribly high “need”. But with such a deep class, it makes sense to at least take a flyer somewhere.

Jones is a guy that I think gets undervalued due to LOC, but whose tape I think is everything I look for in a RB. He’s tough, he’s fast, he can catch, and he runs with a sort of hungry desperation that tells me he will fit in the Seattle RB room and the tradition of Marshawn and Thomas.

Look for Jones to come in at 5’10″/210 lbs at the combine, and run under a 4.50 forty. Good specs to go with his impressive national production: 2nd in explosive runs, 1st in runs over 40 yards, 3rd in rushing yards per game.

#211 – Xavier Woods, SS, LaTech

We haven’t touched on WR, but it’s my sense of this class that if you haven’t found one in the top 100 picks, you might as well wait for UDFA.

Instead I will look to fill the potential void that will be left by unrestricted free agents Kelcie McCray, Jeron Johnson, and RFA Dewey McDonald.

Xavier can play either safety spot, runs well, hits hard, and can play special teams.

#247 – Algernon Brown, FB, BYU

Marcel Reece and Will Tukuafu are both over 31 years old and UFA, while Brandon Cottom is coming off an achilles injury. We’ve seen Seattle take a chance on a 7th round fullback before, so this isn’t unrealistic.

Algie is my favorite FB this year. 6’1″/250 lbs with good hands and experience as a lead back. Really fluid mover for that size.